The Gut-Wrenching Process of Befriending Ourselves
is a columnist for On Being. Her column appears monthly.
She is a meditation teacher and the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She is the author of many books, including Love Your Enemies, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, and Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace.
The stories we tell about love and life are the root of dreams and frustration, alike. Sharon Salzberg on how “unstitching and reweaving” the narratives we hold can lead to a more generous understanding of our relationships, and ourselves.
In pop culture “coolness” is sometimes equated with nonchalance, isolation, and sarcasm. Sharon Salzberg asks us to rethink what it means to be “cool” and argues that kindness and empathy can be the “in” thing.
To devote oneself to battling injustice is noble, but rigorous. Sharon Salzberg celebrates the extraordinary work of agents of social change, and illuminates the importance of balancing exposure to hardship with self-care.
Life can be frustrating, and we often react with resistance, or overwhelm. Sharon Salzberg reminds us that emotional balance doesn’t come from denying feelings, but from allowing them room to play out fully.
Humility is a virtue, but denying ourselves the happiness we deserve can be a destructive habit. Sharon Salzberg with a reflection on the perils of self-deprecation, and how we might come to relish moments of joy, fully.
The value of doubt can be lost in a culture that puts us on a quest for certainty. Sharon Salzberg on the complex relationship between questioning and faith, and how they can lead to growth when put to skillful practice.
Working through discomfort doesn’t mean denying our suffering. Instead, Sharon Salzberg suggests a better way to move forward: allowing ourselves to feel pain without judgment, and accepting the validity of our own emotions.
The lingering pain of a traumatic history can create a sense of helplessness. But, reflecting on her family’s suffering during the Holocaust, Sharon Salzberg realizes our redemptive agency in forming the path we take forward.
Many of us feel cast off and and think we have to go it alone. But what if we took solace in the third refuge of the community? Sharon Salzberg with a video meditation on standing in line and counsel on how we might thrive in our connectedness with one another.
It can be easy to fall into distorted channels of self-doubt and self-criticism. But, rather than trying to suppress those feelings, personal empowerment may come from acknowledging, relating, and directing them may lead to a more spacious life.
Though she’s the example many turn to for guidance on mindfulness practice, Sharon Salzberg didn’t always find meditation so easy. She reflects on an early retreat in India, and what it can teach us about letting go of ideals, and having faith in what is.
Finding a clear sense of being home shouldn’t be sought from a desperate place. But, how is it possible to yearn without becoming lost in our deluded states of mind? Sharon Salzberg on the wise attention we possess that alchemizes delusion into wisdom.
Recalling the harrowing experience of one of her students, Sharon Salzberg considers the Buddha’s teachings on practicing intentional lovingkindness, and its power to heal both from without and within.
Actions stem from deep roots within, but how much attention do we give this inner space? A reminder that while nothing can be accomplished without action, actions in turn are made by the intentions that fuel them.
What happens when our icons are turned to rubble? Would their meaning still hold? Drawing on the Hindu tradition of ishta devata, Sharon Salzberg contemplates the Paris attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis through her favorite icon, the Statue of Liberty.
We are genetically inclined to look for possible negative outcomes. But, does this survival mechanism serve us well in our time? Some helpful insights on not judging ourselves too harshly and creating a new sense of spaciousness within.
On finding herself amidst a buzzing group of Pope Francis’s admirers, Sharon Salzberg marvels at their elation at simply being in his presence — and reflects on what they can teach us about being open to receiving spiritual goodness.
When asked about love, people frequently use the word “need.” Sharon Salzberg analyzes this intermingling and why we should find a way to disentangle them to better understanding of real need, and real love.
If kindness, especially towards ourselves, is not our habit, where will it come from? Sharon Salzberg tells of her first encounter with lovingkindness and how we use can this practice to look upon ourselves differently — and with those we most want to ignore.
Sometimes we lose sight of the the beauty and connectedness of all things. Missing her shot of a Santa Fe rainbow, Sharon Salzberg invites us to find the beauty of paradox and the changing role of presence and impermanence in all things.
As life fleets by, we can get caught up in worrying about what may eventually happen. Through a story of receiving her first senior discount, Sharon Salzberg teaches us to exercise our “letting-go muscle” to be with what is.
It’s not easy to genuinely know who we are. The stories others tell about us and the labels society heaps upon us only add to that confusion. But, when we disentangle ourselves from these narratives, we may choose courage over fear and take new risks.
Forgiveness is not easily granted. But, summoning the deepest compassion for ourselves and others may allow both parties to move on without bitterness. Through the bittersweet story of her friend, Sharon Salzberg imparts a lesson about the shifting course of relationships and a path to peace.
So often we dwell on our mistakes. Sharon Salzberg helps us step away from this routine and walk a different terrain — with the practice of lovingkindness that develops a flexibility of looking at our own lives.
In our utilitarian age, meditation is often discussed as a means to increase focus, productivity, and cognition but what about meditation as an engine for kindness? Sharon Salzberg explores the power of compassion and kindness to meet with abundance the suffering of the stranger.
Each one of us has a “constellation of tendencies,” but often we identify more strongly with a certain set of responses. By identifying our dominant personality type, we can see these tendencies in their purified and unpurified forms — and find a world of options opening up as we become more aware.
Who is “the other”? A call to cultivate deep curiosity for the lives and struggles and to move away from the “Us-versus-Them” mentality — including a reflective exercise you can perform right now, wherever you are.
To celebrate the 80th birthday of the great spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sharon Salzberg recounts her first encounter with him and the importance of his example — in words and in deed.